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The Persian Imperial Authorization as an Historical Problem 

and as a Biblical Construct: 

A Plea for Distinctions in the Current Debate 

Konrad Schmid 

University of Zurich 

I. THE CURRENT DEBATE 
The theory of a "Persian imperial authorization" of the Torah has become one of the most 
successful hypotheses of Old Testament scholarship during the past twenty years. 1 The theory 



I am grateful to Gary N. Knoppers and Bernard M. Levinson, as the organizers of the 
Edinburgh session and the editors of this volume, for their help with the linguistic form and 
scholarly content of this article. 

1 See Rainer Albertz, Religionsgeschichte Israels in alttestamentlicher Zeit (GAT 8/1—2; 
Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992) 497-504; translated, idem, A History of Israelite 
Religion in the Old Testament Period, vol. 2, From the Exile to the Maccabees (trans. John 
Bowden; London: SCM, 1994) 466-71. See also Joseph Blenkinsopp, The Pentateuch: An 
Introduction to the First Five Books of the Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1992) 239-42; David 
M. Carr, Reading the Fractures of Genesis: Historical and Literary Approaches (Louisville: 
Westminster, 1996) 324-33; Frank Criisemann, "Das 'portative' Vaterland," in Kanon und 
Zensur: Archdologie der literarischen Kommunikation II (ed. Aleida and Jan Assmann; Munich: 
Fink, 1987) 63-79; idem, Die Tora: Theologie und Sozialgeschichte des alttestamentlichen 



Gesetzes (Munich: Kaiser, 1992); idem, "Der Pentateuch als Tora: Prolegomena zur 
Interpretation seiner Endgestalt," EvT 49 (1989) 250-67; Reinhard G. Kratz, Translatio imperii: 
Untersuchungen zu den aramdischen Danielerzdhlungen und ihrem theologiegeschichtlichen 
Umfeld (WMANT 63; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1991) 233-55; Ernst Axel Knauf, Die 
Umwelt des Alten Testaments (Neuer Stuttgarter Kommentar, Altes Testament 29; Stuttgart: 
Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1994) 171-75; Jon L. Berquist, Judaism in Persia 's Shadow: A Social 
and Historical Approach (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995) 138-39; Horst SeebaE, "Pentateuch," 
TRE 26.185-209 (at 26.189-90); Konrad Schmid, Erzvater und Exodus: Untersuchungen zur 
doppelten Begrundung der Urspriinge Israels innerhalb der Geschichtsbucher des Alten 
Testaments (WMANT 81; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1999) 291 n. 658; Odd Hannes 
Steck, Der Abschlufi der Prophetie im Alten Testament: Ein Versuch zur Frage der 
Vorgeschichte des Kanons (Biblisch-theologische Studien 17; Neukirchen-Vluyn 1991) 13-21; 
idem, "Der Kanon des hebraischen Alten Testaments: Historische Materialien fur eine 
okumenische Perspektive," in Verbindliches Zeugnis I: Kanon — Schrift — Tradition (ed. Wolfhart 
Pannenberg and Theodor Schneider; Dialog der Kirchen 7; Freiburg: Herder; Gottingen: 
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1992) 11-33 (at 16); James W. Watts, Reading Law: The Rhetorical 
Shaping of the Pentateuch (BiSe 59; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999) 137-44; Erich 
Zenger, Einleitung in das Alte Testament (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1995) 39-42 (but see the 
adjustments in the 5th ed. [2004] of his Einleitung, 129-31); idem, "Der Pentateuch als Tora und 
als Kanon," in Die Tora als Kanon fur Juden und Christen (ed. Erich Zenger; Herders Biblische 
Studien 10; Freiburg: Herder, 1996) 5-34. Hans G. Kippenberg uses the stronger term 
"Reichssanktionierung," but he reckons with a similar phenomenon {Die v order asiatischen 



has primarily been associated with the name of Peter Frei. 2 But it is important to recognize that 
the theory was independently formulated by Erhard Blum in the mid-1980s, although he first 
published his results only in 1990. 3 Neither Frei nor Blum invented this theory, however, which 
had earlier been proposed by Eduard Meyer, Hans Heinrich Schaeder, Martin Noth, Edda 
Bresciani, Ulrich Kellermann, Wilhelm In der Smitten, and others. This earlier history of the 



Erlosungsreligionen in ihrem Zusammenhang mit der antiken Stadtherrschqft [Suhrkamp 
Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 917; Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1991] 181-82). 

2 Peter Frei, "Zentralgewalt und Lokalautonomie im Achamenidenreich," in idem and 
Klaus Koch, Reichsidee und Reichs organisation im Perserreich (OBO 55; 2d ed.; Fribourg: 
Universitatsverlag; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht [1984], 1996) 5-131; idem, 
"Zentralgewalt und Lokalautonomie im achamenidischen Kleinasien," Transeu 3 (1990) 157-71; 
idem, "Die persische Reichsautorisation: Ein Uberblick," ZABR 1 (1995) 1-35. (See also the 
Eng. trans.: "Persian Imperial Authorization: A Summary," in Persia and Tor ah: The Theory of 
Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch [ed. James W. Watts; SBLSymS 17; Atlanta: Scholars 
Press, 2001] 5-40.) 

3 Erhard Blum, Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch (BZAW 189; Berlin and New 
York: de Gruyter, 1990) 333-60 (see the statement in 345 n. 42); idem, "Esra, die Mosetora und 
die persische Politik," in Religion und Religionskontakte im Zeitalter der Achdmeniden (ed. 
Reinhard G. Kratz; Veroffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft fur Theologie 22; 
Giitersloh: Giitersloher Verlagshaus, 2001) 231-55 (at 250 n. 80). 



model has been recognized by Frei and Blum, as well as by Udo Riitersworden. 4 Indeed, Meyer 
had already contended in 1896: 

Die Einfiihrung eines derartigen Gesetzbuchs [i.e., Esras Gesetz] fur einen 
bestimmten Kreis von Unterthanen ist nur moglich, wenn es vom Reich 
sanktionirt, wenn es konigliches Gesetz geworden ist. Das wird in v.26 [i.e., Esr 
7,26] ausdriicklich ausgesprochen. 5 

The introduction of such a law book [i.e., Ezra's law] for a certain number of 
subjects is only possible if it is authorized by the empire itself, if it has become 
the law of the king. This is explicitly said in v. 26 [i.e., Ezr 7:26]. 
After enjoying wide reception and agreement, this positive attitude towards the theory 
seems to have changed in recent scholarship. Following the critical discussion of this theory in 
the first volume of the Zeitschrift fur altorientalische und biblische Rechtsgeschichte (1995), 
additional objections rapidly followed by Eckart Otto, Hans-Christoph Schmitt, and Amelie 
Kuhrt, as well as those included in the anthology Persia and Torah, compiled by James W. 



4 Frei, "Zentralgewalt und Lokalautonomie im Achamenidenreich," 16 n. 19; Blum, 
Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch, 346-47 and notes 44 and 52 there; idem, "Esra," 250 n. 
78; Udo Riitersworden, "Die persische Reichsautorisation der Thora: fact or fiction?" ZABR 1 
(1995) 47-61 (at 51 notes 17-20). 

5 Eduard Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums: Eine historische Untersuchung (Halle: 
Max Niemeyer, 1896) 66 (additions mine). Translations and parenthetical insertions, unless 
otherwise stated, are mine. 



Watts. 6 Consequently, the majority of current scholarship seems to have distanced itself from 
the theory. Eckart Otto, for example, arrives at a decisive conclusion when he states in his 
review of the volume Persia and Torah that "die These . . . durch die Fachiranisten einhellig 



6 Eckart Otto, "Kritik der Pentateuchkomposition," TRu 60 (1995) 163-91 (at 169 n. 5); 
idem, "Die nachpriesterschriftliche Pentateuchredaktion im Buch Exodus," in Studies in the 
Book of Exodus: Redaction — Reception — Interpretation (ed. Marc Vervenne; BETL 126; 
Leuven: Peeters, 1996) 61-111 (at 66-70); idem, "Gesetzesfortschreibung und 
Pentateuchredaktion," ZAW 107 (1995) 373-92 (at 375 and n. 14 there); idem, Die Tora des 
Mose: Die Geschichte der literarischen Vermittlung von Recht, Religion und Politik durch die 
Mosegestalt (Berichte aus den Sitzungen der Joachim Jungius-Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften; 
Hamburg: Joachim Jungius Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften, 2001) 51-52. Hans-Christoph 
Schmitt, "Die Suche nach der Identitat des Jahweglaubens im nachexilischen Israel: 
Bemerkungen zur theologischen Intention der Endredaktion des Pentateuch," in Pluralismus und 
Identitat (ed. Joachim Mehlhausen; Veroffentlichungen der Wissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft fiir 
Theologie 8; Giitersloh: Giitersloher Verlagshaus, 1995) 259-78 (at 263-67); idem, "Das 
spatdeuteronomistische Geschichtswerk Gen 1-2 Regum XXV und seine theologische 
Intention," in Congress Volume Cambridge 1995 (ed. J. A. Emerton; VTSup 66; Leiden: Brill, 
1997) 261-79. Amelie Kuhrt, "The Persian Kings and Their Subjects: A Unique Relationship?" 
OLZ 96 (2001) 166-73. But see the short discussion in Konrad Schmid, "Persische 
Reichsautorisation und Tora," TRu 71 (2006) 494-506. The present article draws upon and 
significantly elaborates the analysis provided there. 



abgelehnt worden [ist]" ("the theory . . . has been unanimously rejected by experts in the field of 
Iranology.") 7 His review concludes: 

Damit ist nun auch in der Alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft das Urteil, das die 
Iranistik langst gefallt hat, gesprochen. Der Pentateuch, das ist die Konsequenz, 
ist nicht Ergebnis persischer 'Geburtshilfe', sondern jiidischer 
Schriftgelehrsamkeit in persischer Zeit. 8 



7 Eckart Otto, "Review of James W. Watts (ed.), Persia and Torah," ZABR 8 (2002) 
411-14. 

8 Otto, "Review of James W. Watts," 413. See idem, "Rechtshermeneutik des 
Pentateuch und die achamenidische Rechtsideologie in ihren altorientalischen Kontexten," in 
Kodifizierung und Legitimierung des Rechts in der Antike und im Alien Orient (ed. Markus Witte 
and Marie Theres Fogen; Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fiir Altorientalische und Biblische 
Rechtsgeschichte 5; Wiesbaden: Harassowitz, 2005) 71-116 (at 105-6). This judgement is not 
unique. See, for example, Christoph Dohmen and Manfred Oeming, Biblischer Kanon: Warum 
undwozu? Eine Kanontheologie (QD 137; Freiburg: Herder, 1992) 91 and n. 3 there; Norbert 
Lohfink, "Gab es eine deuteronomistische Bewegung?" in Jeremia und die "deuteronomistische 
Bewegung" (ed. Walter GroE; BBB 98; Weinheim: Beltz Athenaum, 1995) 313-82 (at 369-70) 
(article republished in Norbert Lohfink, Studien zum Deuteronomium und zur 
deuteronomistischen Literatur III [SBAB 20; Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 1995] 65-142); 
Titus Reinmuth, "Reform und Tora bei Nehemia: Neh 10,31-40 und die Autorisierung der Tora 
in der Perserzeit," ZABR 7 (2001) 287-317; Horst SeebaE, "Das Erbe Martin Noths zu 
Pentateuch und Hexateuch," in Martin Noth — aus der Sicht der heutigen Forschung (ed. Udo 



The judgement, long after Iranology came to it, has thus also been pronounced in 
the field of Old Testament scholarship. The Pentateuch, this is the conclusion, is 
not the result of Persian "midwifery," but rather of Jewish scribal scholarship 
during the Persian era. 

However, the issue is not as simple as Eckart Otto maintains. In section II, I shall demonstrate 
that the objections raised by Josef Wiesehofer, the Iranologist cited so frequently by the critics of 



Riitersworden; Biblisch-theologische Studien 58; Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 2004) 21- 
59 (at 25 n. 13) {contra his own position in SeebaE, "Pentateuch," 205); Pierre Briant, "Histoire 
imperiale et histoire regionale: A propos de l'histoire de Juda dans l'empire achemenide," in 
Congress Volume Oslo 1998 (ed. Andre Lemaire and Magne Saebo; VTSup 80; Leiden: Brill, 
2000) 235-45 (at 241-42); Ernst Baltrusch, Die Juden und das Romische Reich: Geschichte 
einer konfliktreichen Beziehung (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2002) 162 n. 
57; Hugh Godfrey Maturin Williamson, "Review of J. Schaper, Priester und Leviten im 
achdmenidischen Juda: Studien zur Kult- und Sozialgeschichte Israels in persischer Zeit," JTS 
54 (2003) 615-20; Wolfgang Oswald, Israel am Gottesberg: Eine Untersuchung zur 
Literargeschichte der vorderen Sinaiperikope Ex 19-24 und deren historischem Hintergrund 
(OBO 159; Fribourg: Universitatsverlag; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1998) 224-29; 
Juha Pakkala, Ezra the Scribe: The Development of Ezra 7-10 and Nehemia 8 (BZAW 347; 
Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2004) 38; Erhard S. Gerstenberger, Israel in der Perserzeit: 5. 
und 4. Jahrhundert v.Chr. (Biblische Enzklopadie 8; Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2005) 320-21. 



Frei's position in the German realm, arise from a misreading of Frei's actual theory. 9 They do 
not, therefore, invalidate the theory itself. Moreover, the two "opposing" positions are not so far 
apart as commonly assumed. 

The present discussion of the "Persian imperial authorisation" of the Torah demands 
some basic clarification. Foremost, one has to introduce a fundamental distinction between two 
different issues that are best discussed separately: On the one hand, the question arises whether 
there ever was such a legal institution in the Persian Empire. On the other hand, there is the 
debate as to whether the completion of the Torah (or rather the formation of relevant literary 
precursors) might be connected to such a process of imperial authorisation of local laws. Both 
questions need to be differentiated further. The dichotomy between a pro or contra stance 



9 Josef Wiesehofer, "'Reichsgesetz' oder 'Einzelfallgerechtigkeit?' Bemerkungen zu P. 
Freis These von der achaimenidischen 'Reichsautorisation,'" ZABR 1 (1995) 36-45. Hilmar 
Klinkott largely follows his teacher Wiesehofer in rejecting the theory of a Persian imperial 
authorization of local laws {Der Satrap: Ein achamenidischer Amtstrager und seine 
Handlungsspielraume [Oikumene 1; Frankfurt: Antike, 2005] 133-34). Additionally, he strictly 
distinguishes between data as "imperial law" and dinu as "local law." This strict thesis, 
however, can easily be disproven by the use of data in line 19 of the Letoon Trilingual (see n. 10 
below). Here Satrap Pixodarus publishes the local decree of the Xanthos community as his own: 
"He has written this law (data)." For a discussion of the term data see R. Schmitt, "data," in 
Encyclopaedia Iranica (ed. Ehsan Yarshater; Costa Mesa: Mazda, 1996) 114-15; Gregor Ahn, 
"'Toleranz' und Reglement: Die Signifikanz achaimenidischer Religionspolitik fiir den jiidisch- 
persischen Kulturkontakt," in Kratz, ed., Religion und Religionskontakte, 202-204; Otto, 
"Rechtshermeneutik," 86-89. 



towards "Persian imperial authorization" that dominates recent scholarly discussions is too 
simplistic. In most cases where this theory is rejected, the rejection does not apply to more than 
a specific version of this theory. 

There is no reason to deny that at least some local laws indeed were authorized by higher 
authorities such as the satraps. This is the unavoidable minimal interpretation of the trilingual 
inscription of Xanthos, which prompted Frei to develop his theory. 10 On the front face of the 
stele, the satrap Pixodaros publishes the decision of the community of Xanthos to establish a cult 
for two Carian deities as his own decree in Aramaic, the imperial language. This provides clear 
evidence for the elevation of local legislation to imperial legislation. This kind of decentralized 
legal system is only to be expected within the Persian Empire, especially for such highly 
developed cultures as Greece, Asia Minor, Judah, or Egypt. The successful administration of an 
ancient empire necessitated that local autonomy be permitted at key junctures. The 
administrative effort of introducing and enforcing a centralized legal corpus would be 
prohibitively high. Scholars have nonetheless searched for this body of law. 11 The search is 
most likely in vain. 12 Such an attempt at creating a centralized legal corpus could hardly meet 
with success. Our question cannot be: "Did a 'Persian Imperial Authorisation' exist?" but must 



10 Henri Metzger, Emanuel Laroche, Andre Dupont-Sommer, Manfred Mayrhofer, 
Fouilles du Xanthos VI: La stele trilingue du Letoon (Paris: Klincksieck, 1979). 

11 See especially the theory of Albert T. Olmstead, A History of the Persian Empire 
(Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1948) 119-134; and idem, "Darius As Lawgiver," AJSL 
51 (1934/1935) 247-49. Note the discussion of Olmstead by Otto, "Rechtshermeneutik," 85. 

12 See Richard Nelson Frye, The History of Ancient Iran (Handbuch der 
Altertumswissenschaft 3/7; Munich: C. H. Beck, 1984) 119. 



be, rather, "How can we best describe processes whereby Persian authorities created local 
autonomy — processes that are only to be expected and that can be substantiated beyond any 
doubt?" 

Accordingly, we have to differentiate the issue of the relation between the establishment 
of the Torah and Persian policy. Here, too, the question is not whether this relation is to be 
assumed or rejected as a whole, but rather how and in what manner the Torah is connected to its 
historical Persian context and what political forces influenced its creation. 



II. WHAT PETER FREI ORIGINALLY MEANT BY "IMPERIAL AUTHORIZATION" AND 
HOW HIS CRITICS UNDERSTOOD HIS THEORY 
Peter Frei defined the Persian Imperial Authorisation as follows: 

Zu definieren ist [die Reichsautorisation] als ein Verfahren, durch das die von 
einer lokalen Instanz gesetzten Normen von einer Instanz der Zentrale nicht 
einfach gebilligt und akzeptiert, sondern ubernommen und zur eigenen Norm 
gemacht werden. Die lokale Norm wird dadurch im Rahmen des gesamten 
staatlichen Verbandes, eben des Reiches, als Norm hoheren Ranges fiir alle 
verbindlich gemacht und gesichert. 13 



13 Frei, "Die persische Reichsautorisation," 3. Compare also 29: "Anzunehmen ist, da£ 
durch [die Reichsautorisation] die von einer lokalen Korperschaft, die lediglich Untertanenstatus 
hatte, gesetzte Norm auf die Stufe der Reichsgesetzgebung gehoben wurde und dadurch 
entsprechende Autoritat genoE." ("It is apparent, however, that through it, the legal norms of a 

10 



By definition it [i.e., the Persian imperial authorization] is a process by which the 
norms established by a local authority are not only approved and accepted by a 
central authority, but adopted as its own. The local norms are thereby established 
and protected within the framework of the entire state association, that is, the 
empire, as higher-ranking norms binding all. 14 

These statements have given rise to misunderstandings that have led some to reject the 
theory as a whole. Frei was primarily interested in qualitative aspects of the central 
administration's adoption of local norms and the elevation of those norms to the status of 
imperial law. Scholars have presumed, however, that Frei's interest indicated something he 
never intended: that the local norms were centrally registered and codified as "imperial law." In 
a contribution to the discussion of Persian imperial authorisation that has been influential in at 
least the German-speaking realm, Josef Wiesehofer seems to have understood Frei in exactly this 
sense: "[A]uf ein Reichszentralkataster, ein Reichszentralarchiv, das auch die speziellsten 
lokalen Regelungen notiert, gibt es keinen Hinweis." 15 ("There is no indication that a central 
register, a central archive containing the specific local regulations, ever existed.") 

Wiesehofer concedes, however, that the central authority of the Persian Empire did have 
processes to ratify local norms. Insofar as he makes this concession, he is quite close to Peter 

local body with subordinate status were elevated to the status of imperial legislation and so 
enjoyed corresponding authority" [Frei, "Persian Imperial Authorization," 38].) 

14 Frei, "Persian Imperial Authorization," 7. 

15 Wiesehofer, "'Reichsgesetz' oder 'Einzelfallgerechtigkeit?'" 44. 



11 



Frei's argument. His main objection concerns this very point of central registration and 
codification of the approved local norms. Wiesehofer himself repeats it again: 

Jedoch sehe ich, zumindest in den nichtalttestamentlichen Texten und in Esra, 
keinen Hinweis darauf gegeben, dass es so etwas wie ein 'persisches 
Reichsgesetz' gegeben hat, in das auch die lokalen Normen — nun als 
Reichsnormen — auf genommen waren. 16 

But I do not see any indication, in texts outside the Old Testament and in Ezra, 
that there ever existed something resembling a "Persian imperial law" that also 
included local norms turned into imperial norms. 

Frei, however, had never made this claim. He was interested in the legal status of the 
local norms authorised by the central administration, not in their central codification and 
archiving. For Frei, "imperial authorisation" refers to a specific quality of the relevant laws, not 
to a process of establishing a central Persian law out of several local regulations. Furthermore, 
he did not claim that regulations that went through the process of an "imperial authorization" 
became binding norms in all parts of the empire. Rather, he thought of "lokal giiltiges 



16 Ibid., 44. In a similar vein, see Ahn, "Toleranz' und Reglement," 194 n. 18; Gary N. 
Knoppers, "An Achaemenid Imperial Authorization of Torah in Yehud?" in Persia and Torah, 
115-34 (at 134); Ludwig Massmann, "Persien und die Tora," ZABR 9 (2003) 238-50 (at 249). 



12 



Reichsrecht" ("locally valid imperial law"). 17 He admits, however, that his phrasing was not 
completely clear and that it was part of the reason for Wiesehofer's misreading. 18 

But Wiesehofer's criticism went on to develop its own tradition. Gregor Ahn, for 
example, offers a criticism of Frei's theory in the mood of Wiesehofer: 



Auch die Annahme, die achamenidische Zentralverwaltung habe einen das 
gesamte Reich umfassenden ProzeE der lokalen Rechtskodifizierung 
("Reichsautorisation") initiiert, der in Judaa die Kompilation des Pentateuch 
katalysorisch ausgelost habe, verkennt die (wie im Fall der sog. "Trilingue vom 
Letoon") von lokalen Anfragen ausgehende und nicht zentral gesteuerte pers. 
Religionspolitik. 19 

The suggestion that the Achaemenid central administration should have initiated 
an all-encompassing process of local law codification ("Imperial authorization") 
misinterprets the Persian policy. It was not centrally steered but reacted to local 
queries. Neither the case of the so-called "Letoon Trilingual" nor the compilation 
of the Pentateuch in Judah provide any evidence for such a suggestion. 

One can find here a misunderstanding similar to Wiesehofer's. Ahn seems to identify "Persian 
imperial authorization" with the process of a central codification of local laws. If imperial 



17 Frei, "Zentralgewalt und Lokalautonomie im Achamenidenreich" (cited at note 2), 13. 

18 Peter Frei, oral communication with author, 3 November 2003. See especially his 
phrases quoted above at note 13: "adopted as its own," and "higher-ranking norms binding all." 

19 Gregor Ahn, "Israel und Persien," RGG (4th ed.) 4.309-11 (at 310). 

13 



authorization is (mis)understood in this way, of course, there is no evidence to postulate this 
legal institution. However, Thierry Petit assumed such a central codification for the notice found 
in the Demotic Chronicle (as well as in Diodorus Siculus I, 94f) according to which king Darius 
collected and recorded Egyptian laws. 20 The historical reliability of the Demotic Chronicle is, 
however, contested. 21 At any rate, Frei did not have such a central archive in mind. Ahn's 
second objection likewise fails to match Frei's intentions. Ahn thinks that Persian imperial 
policy functioned bottom up, and not top down. Local authorities, rather than the central 
administration, initiated processes for the acceptance of local laws. This suggestion completely 
concurs with Frei's interpretation of the trilingual inscription of Xanthos: 



20 See Wilhelm Spiegelberg, Die sogenannte Demotische Chronik des Pap. 215 der 
Bibliotheque Nationale zu Paris nebst den aufder Ruckseite des Papyrus stehenden Texten 
(Demotische Studien 7; Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1914). Thierry Petit, Satrapes et satrapies dans 
V empire achemenide de Cyrus le Grand a Xerxes Ier (Liege: Bibliotheque de la Faculte de 
Philosophie et Lettres de l'Universite de Liege 254, 1990). 

21 Donald B. Redford holds the reports in the Demotic Chronicle to be of little value for 
the historical reconstruction of Achaemenid Egypt (idem, "The So-Called 'Codification' of 
Egyptian Law under Darius I," in Watts, Persia and Torah, 135-59). Diodorus of Sicily 
presents Persian period Egypt in a Hellenistic fashion, therefore with its own legislation. The 
Demotic Chronicle, according to Redford, is no witness to an imperial authorization or 
codification of Egyptian laws, but might reflect the historical translation of economic documents 
of Egyptian temples into Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Persian empire, which allowed the 
Persian authorities to tax and administer these temples. 



14 



[D]a£ man die Autorisation einholen wolle, ist ein Teil des Volksbeschlusses. . . . 
[D]as Ersuchen um die Autorisation [war] .... demnach nicht selbstverstandlich 
und also nicht obligatorisch. 22 

The desire to obtain an authorization is part of the community's decree. . . . The 

attempt to have an authorization issued was neither taken for granted nor 

obligatory. 23 

Frei remains uncertain about, but did not preclude the possibility of top down processes 
of imperial authorization, as was the case in the recording of Egyptian laws by Darius I (522- 
486 B.C.E.). 

Another of Wiesehofer's objections addresses the fact that not all of Frei's examples 
indicate that the Persian king himself was involved. 24 This observation is correct, but one should 
not overestimate its importance. Outside of the homeland, the satrap clearly represents the 
central government and attends to its interests in the particular satrapy. 25 However, for Darius's 
legislation in Egypt and Ezra's mission in Judah, the sources — Diodorus of Sicily 1.95.4 and 



22 Frei, "Die persische Reichsautorisation," 27. 

23 Frei, "Persian Imperial Authorization," 36. 

24 Wiesehofer, "'Reichsgesetz' oder 'Einzelfallgerechtigkeit?'" 44. 

25 On the relation between the satraps to the king of kings see Pierre Briant, From Cyrus 
to Alexander: A History of the Persian Empire (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 2000) 338-47. For 
this question, see especially Klinkott, Satrap, 134. As a rule, satraps were in charge of legal 
matters; the king of kings could get involved at any point if the local population appealed to him 
(Briant, From Cyrus to Alexander, 345). 

15 



Ezra 7 — explicitly mention and even stress that the central government was involved in the 
process. 26 These two cases in particular, however, at least in their literary presentation, are 
suspect: they may very well be fictitious, so that one might assume that, historically, the 
involvement of the satrap was the normal case. This stands to reason: The satrap's task in 
matters of legislation was not only to implement the will of the central government but also to 
respect local demands. His duty was to mediate between local and central interests. 27 The 
explicit involvement of the Persian king in the process might (or might not) be a special feature 
of literary presentations like those of Diodorus and Ezra 7, which have a special interest in 
highlighting the imperial status of the legislation in relevant parts of the Persian empire. 

Thus far, one may conclude the following: The criticisms that Iranologists such as 
Wiesehofer and Ahn make against Frei's theory of the imperial authorization of local laws 
contain objections based on some misreadings of the theory, but are not objections to the 
fundamental theory itself. Therefore, it is only appropriate that contributors to the Persia and 
Torah volume edited by Watts do not unanimously argue against the Persian imperial 
authorization. Gary Knoppers, for example, opts for a more open definition of the process 
referred to as "imperial authorisation." He does not assume a highly centralized and uniform 
Persian policy of authorizing local norms, but recognizes different forms of tolerance against 
local autonomy. 28 Joseph Blenkinsopp distances himself to a certain degree from his former 



26 Frei, "Persian Imperial Authorization," 9-12. 

27 Klinkott, Satrap, 148. 

28 Knoppers, "Achaemenid Imperial Authorization," 134. 



16 



support of the theory of "imperial authorisation" without rejecting it as a whole. 29 He 
acknowledges the main evidence for the "imperial authorization" put forward by Frei in the 
Trilingue of Xanthos, and views this process as one of several instruments of the Persian 
administration that probably was not that important on a large scale. 30 

Knoppers argues that it is indeed prudent to reject a uniformly reductionist notion of 
"Persian imperial authorization" connected to the idea of a central archive, a central 
administration, and the central role of the king of kings (instead of a satrap). But his argument 
would still be in keeping with Peter Frei's theory. Serious problems would arise for Peter Frei, 
however, if the new monograph by Sebastian Gratz is correct in its objections to the theory of 
Persian imperial authorization. 31 Gratz builds on the work of his teacher Udo Riitersworden. 32 



29 Joseph Blenkinsopp, "Was the Pentateuch the Civic and Religious Constitution of the 
Jewish Ethnos in the Persian Period?," in Watts, Persia and Torah, 41-62. For Blenkinsopp's 
earlier stance, see note 1, above. 

30 Blenkinsopp, "Was the Pentateuch," 46. 

31 Sebastian Gratz, Das Edikt des Artaxerxes: Eine Untersuchung zum 
religionspolitischen und historischen Umfeld von Esra 7,12-26 (BZAW 337; Berlin and New 
York: de Gruyter, 2004); idem, "Esra 7 im Kontext hellenistischer Politik: Der konigliche 
Euergetismus in hellenistischer Zeit als ideeller Hintergrund von Esr 7,12-26," in Die Griechen 
und das antike Israel: Interdisziplindre Studien zur Religions- und Kulturgeschichte des Heiligen 
Landes (ed. Stefan Alkier and Markus Witte; OBO 201; Fribourg: Academic Press; Gottingen: 
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2004) 131-54. See also Ernst Baltrusch, "Review of Sebastian Gratz, 
Das Edikt des Artaxerxes: Eine Unterschung zum religionspolitischen und historischen Umfeld 



17 



He suggests that Ezra 7:12-26 is a Hellenistic deed of donation, because it reflects the 
Hellenistic praxis of euergesis: that is, the practice of beneficence often undertaken by 
Hellenistic kings to present themselves as generous donors to their subdued population. The 
edict in Ezra 7:12-26 is important especially for the final invocation of sanctions for any 
infraction: "All who will not obey the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgement be 
strictly executed on them, whether for death or for banishment or for confiscation of their goods 
or for imprisonment" (Ezra 7:26). This statement has gained a lot of attention in the discussion 
about Persian imperial authorization, as scholars have often interpreted the direct juxtaposition 
of "the law of your [that is, Ezra's] God" and "the law of the [Persian] king" in 7:26 to indicate 
that both entities were identical — in the sense of a Persian authorisation of Ezra's law. 33 "The 
law of the king" is nowhere introduced in the preceding context, so this proposal could be an 
elegant solution to clarifiy the phrase's ambiguity. 

According to Gratz, however, Ezra 7:12-26 cannot be evaluated to reconstruct Persian 
imperial policy. Gratz argues that the edict of Artaxerxes preserved in Ezra 7:12-26 is a 
Hellenistic fiction. His proposals are unconvincing. He himself admits that there are very few 
analogies to the supposed genre of "endowment grants" that he introduces in his analysis of Ezra 

von Esra 7,12-26 (BZAW 337; Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 2004)." Cited 29 January 
2007. Online: http://hsozkult.geschichte.hu-berlin.de/rezensionen/2004-4-129.pdf. 

32 See Riitersworden, "Die persische Reichsautorisation der Thora" (cited n. 4 above). 

33 See for example Thomas Willi, Juda-Jehud-Israel: Studien zum Selbstverstandnis des 
Judentums in persischer Zeit (FAT 12; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1995) 91-117 and the 
bibliography provided there. 



18 



7:12-26. 34 In addition, the statements in Ezra 7:25-26 have concerns other than those of an 
endowment. The sanction mentioned in Ezra 7:26 does not fit the genre, and Gratz has to 
explain it away by assuming a textual influence from Deut. 17:11-12. 35 Finally, Gratz's theory 
depends on his cross-check whether there are any external parallels to Ezra 7:12-26 available in 
Achaemenid texts: 

Konkret ausgedriickt: Hat es einen persischen "Euergetismus" gegeben, dem sich 
das Zeugnis Esr 7,12ff z.B. als Schenkung persischer Provenienz zuordnen lassen 
konnte? 36 

Stated concretely: Was there ever a Persian "euergetism," an institution to which 
Ezra 7:12-26 could be a witness, as a donation of Persian provenance? 

However, this cross-check could only be valid if Ezra 7:12-26 indeed constitutes a "royal 
endowment," as Gratz maintains. Exactly this point is disputable. Furthermore, it is astonishing 
that Gratz does not allow the Cyrus cylinder, the Udjahorresnet naophoros, or the edict by Cyrus 
in Ezra 6 (compare Ezra 1:1-3) any relevance as possible analogies. This oversight creates the 
impression that his argumentation involves a petitio principii. 37 Even if Gratz is right that Ezra 7 



34 Gratz, Das Edikt, 139-40; the examples from Ezra 6:7-13; 8:9-24 and Josephus {Ant. 
XII § 138-144) are not conclusive. 

35 Gratz, Das Edikt, 181. 

36 Ibid., 215. 

37 Gratz states that the Cyrus cylinder is not a "typisches Zeugnis achamenidischer 
Politik" ("specific witness to Achaemenid policy"). Instead, he argues as follows: "[Kyros hat 



19 



is a Hellenistic text, it still might be possible that Ezra 7 refers to known Persian processes of 
"imperial authorization," which processes could be transferred on a literary level in the 
introduction of the Torah in Judah. 

Therefore Ezra 7 may or may not be a Hellenistic text, and the letter of Artaxerxes may 
or may not be a fiction, but this is, in any case, not a conclusive argument against the suggestion 
that Ezra 7 may reflect Persian period institutions. For example, we know today that Josephus 
faked the documents he provides in the books 14-16 of his Antiquities. Still, they contain 
historically reliable information. 38 Therefore, even if Gratz' s dating and interpretation of Ezra 7 

sich] wie bereits Assurbanipal wesentlicher Motive [neujbabylonischer Konigsideologie bedient, 
um die Anerkennung v.a. der Marduk-Priesterschaft von Esagila zu erlangen" ("[Cyrus] used, as 
did Ashurbanipal before him, crucial motifs of [neo-]Babylonian royal ideology in order to gain 
approval especially from the Marduk priesthood of Esagila") (Gratz, Das Edikt, 222-23). In 
relation to the Udjahorresnet naophoros, Gratz remarks, "Kambyses agiert in der Udjahorresnet- 
Inschrift . . . zunachst als agyptischer Pharao und nicht als persischer Konig, so dass sich eine 
besondere Forderung fremder Kulte als Folge der spezifisch persische [sic] Konigsideologie 
nicht nachweisen lasst" ("In the Udjahorresnet inscription . . . Cambyses foremost acts as 
Egyptian Pharaoh and not as the Persian king. Therefore, a peculiar promotion of foreign cults 
as a specific consequence of Persian royal ideology cannot be proven") (Gratz, Das Edikt, 233). 
38 See, for example, Baltrusch, Die Juden, 94, 96 n. 47, 109 n. 123. Compare, however, 
Gratz, Das Edikt, 164 n. 540, with reference to Bernd Schroder, Die 'vaterlichen Gesetze ': 
Flavins Josephus als Vermittler von Halachah an Griechen und Romer (TSAJ 53; Tubingen: J. 
C. B. Mohr, 1996). 



20 



were correct, this would not provide a cogent argument against the institution of Persian imperial 



authorization. 39 



III. THE IMPERIAL AUTHORIZATION OF THE TORAH AS AN HISTORICAL PROBLEM 

AND AS A BIBLICAL CONSTRUCT 

If we should, or better, if we must assume processes whereby local norms were 
authorized by the Persian empire — however these processes are identified and determined in 
detail — then we are now faced with the question of the degree to which the formation of the 
Torah must be connected with these processes. 

Several possibilities can be imagined in this regard. Aside from the simple question, 
most often debated in current scholarship, of whether the formation of the Torah (or a literary 
precursor) should be connected historically with the process of an imperial authorization, we 
should also discuss whether the Old Testament, most explicitiy Ezra 7, interprets the legal 
implementation of the Torah according to the known model of Persian imperial authorization. 

The first possibility is very much disputed. To be sure, Peter Frei himself never proposed 
that the formation of the Torah should be explained by the theory of imperial authorization. This 
is one of the most important differences between Frei and Blum. Blum is most explicit on this 
issue when he places the decisive steps in the composition of the Pentateuch within the context 
of Persian policies. He postulates two main compositional layers in the Torah, a 



39 This argument is also valid regarding Lester L. Grabbe, "The Law of Moses in the 
Ezra Tradition: More Virtual than Real?" in: Persia and Torah, 91-113 (at 92-94). 



21 



"Deuteronomistic" (Kd) and a "Priestly" (Kp) one. 40 The compositional activities behind these 
two layers each led to the establishment of a proto-Pentateuch in the early Achaemenid period, 
and part of the motivation behind these activities was, according to Blum, the requirements of 
Achaemenid politics: "(Kd und) Kp [wurde] unter anderem auch unter der Perspektive der 
'Reichsautorisation' gestaltet." 41 ("(Kd and) Kp [were] also formed within the perspective of 
'imperial authorization.'" 

This is especially true for the inclusion of "Kp," the "Priestly" compositional layer in the 
Torah. Blum maintains that without some external trigger, the process that led to the integration 
of these two compositional layers into a single Torah could never have taken place of its own 
accord. In their theological orientation, after all, the two compositional layers relate to each 
other like fire and ice. I basically agree with Blum's assertion of a "discontinuous composition" 
that characterizes the combination of Deuteronomistic and priestly material on a textual level. 
The different perspective of these texts is so obvious that it has been almost universally 
recognized even within the widely diffuse state of current Pentateuchal research. 



40 See Erhard Blum, Die Komposition der Vdtergeschichte (WMANT 57, Neukirchen- 
Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1984) and his Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch. In these works, 
Kd and Kp both are supposed to have a literary extension from Genesis to Deuteronomy. Blum 
now limits Kd to Exodus-Deuteronomy; see his article, "Die literarische Verbindung von 
Erzvatern und Exodus: Ein Gesprach mit neueren Endredaktionshypothesen," in Abschied vom 
Jahwisten: Die Komposition des Hexateuch in der jilngsten Diskussion (ed. Jan Christian Gertz 
et al.; BZAW 315; Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 2002), 119-56. 

41 Blum, Studien zur Komposition des Pentateuch, 358 (parens in original; bracket 
added). Similarly, p. 360 and n. 96 there. See also idem, "Esra," 235-46. 



22 



The argument, however, is not conclusive when it comes to its position regarding the lack 
of analogies for the composition of the Pentateuch out of theologically divergent material. 
Although other areas of the Old Testament also combine diametrically opposed positions, this 
has not led biblical scholars to conclude that the combination could only have occurred as a 
result of external pressure. Some passages from the Prophetical Books provide especially clear 
examples of this. The process of innerbiblical reinterpretation often leads to theologically 
conflicting statements. Certain "gola oriented" texts in the book of Jeremiah (for example, Jer 
24:8-10 or 29:16-19), announce the dispersion to all regions of the world of those parts of 
Judah's and Jerusalem's population that were not deported to Babylon in 597 B.C.E. 42 These 
texts focus on the primacy of the Babylonian gola originating from the 597 B.C.E. deportation. 
However, there is another set of "diaspora oriented" texts in the book of Jeremiah, including 
23:7-8 and 29:14, that disavow such judgment texts and envisage the return of the whole 
diaspora to Israel's homeland. 43 They argue against the exclusive primacy of the Babylonian 



42 See Konrad Schmid, Buchgestalten des Jeremiabuches: Untersuchungen zur 
Redaktions- und Rezeptionsgeschichte von Jer 30-33 im Kontext des Buches (WMANT 72, 
Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1996) 253-67. The terms "gola orientation" and "diaspora 
orientation" were introduced by Karl-Friedrich Pohlmann. See idem, Studien zum Jeremiabuch 
(FRLANT 118, Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1978); and idem, Ezechielstudien: Zur 
Redaktionsgeschichte des Buches und zur Frage nach den dltesten Texten (BZAW 202; Berlin: 
de Gruyter, 1992). See also the acceptance of this distinction by Christoph Levin, Die 
Verheifiung des neuen Bundes: in ihrem theologiegeschichtlichen Zusammenhang ausgelegt 
(FRLANT 137; Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1985). 

43 See Schmid, Buchgestalten, 270-74. 



23 



gola. Instead, they focus on the worldwide diaspora as a whole as the legitimate "Israel." 
Therefore, the combination of conflicting or opposing concepts within the Torah does not have 
to have occurred due to external pressure. It might be explained with the help of the theory of 
Persian imperial authorization, but there is no need to do so. 

Another problem is the formation of the Pentateuch as Torah. Why have these five books 
been transformed into a self-contained canonical entity? Here, it might be helpful to at least 
discuss a certain influence from outside to understand why Genesis to Deuteronomy have been 
segregated as Torah from the larger context of the narrative books reaching from Genesis to 
Kings. 44 Scholars who deny such an influence need to propose an alternative explanation. 

A more specific problem lies in the question of how to explain the adoption of the 
Pentateuch as the Torah by the Samaritans. Did the Samaritans take over a Torah that the 
Judeans had already accepted as a normative text? Or should one think instead of a parallel 
process in Samaria that led to the adoption of the Torah as a normative text there? If things are 
complicated for the case of Judah, this is the more true for Samaria, as historical data for this 
community and its textual basis in ancient times are hard to determine. Traditionally, scholars 



44 For discussion of some problems of the formation of the Torah, its theological shape, 
and its historical circumstances, see my Erzvater und Exodus, 290-301. See also my "Der 
Pentateuchredaktor: Beobachtungen zum theologischen Profil des Toraschlusses in Dtn 34," in 
Les dernier es redactions du Pentateuque, de I 'Hexateuque et de I 'Enneateuque (ed. Thomas 
Romer and Konrad Schmid; BETL 203; Leuven: Peeters, 2007) 183-97; and idem, "The Late 
Persian Formation of the Torah: Observations on Deuteronomy 34," in Judah and the Judeans in 
the 4th Century (ed. Gary Knoppers and Oded Lipschits; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 
forthcoming in 2007). 

24 



have postulated a schism between Judaeans and Samaritans in the Persian or early Hellenistic 
period, and claimed the introduction of the Torah in Judah to be a terminus a quo for this schism, 
which was followed by a final split in the period of the Hasmonaeans or even later. 45 More 
recent research tends to avoid the "schism" terminology, as this presumes a former unity. On a 
related note, the archeological evaluation of the excavations on Mount Gerizim in search of a 
Samaritan temple or cult place seem to have radically changed in the last few years. In the early 
1990s, Itzhak Magen stated that there were no remnants discernible on Mount Gerizim that 
antedate the second century B.C.E. 46 Now he claims that the origins of the cult place on Mount 
Gerizim have to be dated as early as the sixth century B.C.E. 47 Given these recent changes in 
scholarship, it is no longer possible to adhere to a simple "schism" theory of Samaritan origins, 
which in turn has repercussions for how to determine the Samaritans' introduction of the Torah. 
At any rate, further treatments of the promulgation of the Torah in Judah cannot proceed etsi 
Samaria non daretur. 

Be this as it may, for the Ezra narratives — especially in Ezra 7-10, but also in Neh 8 — 
one point is clear: The logic of the story aims at presenting Ezra's law as a document equipped 



45 See the discussion in Ingrid Hjelm, "What do Samaritans and Jews have in Common? 
Recent Trends in Samaritan Studies," CBR 3 (2004) 9-59 (at 14). See also Alan D. Crown and 
Reinhard Pummer, A Bibliography of the Samaritans (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2005.) 

46 See Ephraim Stern and Yitzhaq Magen, "Archaeological Evidence for the First Stage 
of the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim," IEJ 52 (2002) 49-57. 

47 Hjelm, "Samaritans," 19-20. See the report in the e-newsletter, "The Samaritan 
Update." Cited 29 January 2007. Online: http://shomronO.tripod.com/2004/jul29.html. 



25 



with the authority of the Persian empire. 48 And this is the reason that Meyer in 1896 and Hans 
Heinrich Schaeder in 1941could conceive of the institution of Persian imperial authorization. 49 
Therefore it is necessary to explain why it is that Ezra 7 can argue in this way. And here again, 
several possibilities must be considered: (1) Ezra 7 correctly reports the imperial authorization of 
the Torah, (2) Ezra 7 is a late text, but still correctly reports the imperial authorization of the 
Torah, or (3) Ezra 7 is a late text, and presents the imperial authorization of the Torah as fiction. 
Which option ist the right one? For the moment, it is impossible to determine. 50 But it must be 



48 See Kratz, Translatio imperii, 233-41 (especially 236); Grabbe, "The Law of Moses 
in the Ezra Tradition." On Rolf Rendtorff, "Esra und das 'Gesetz'" TAW 96 (1984) 165-84, see 
Kratz, Translatio imperii, 238 n. 380, and Rendtorff's own clarifications in "Noch einmal: Esra 
und das 'Gesetz'" ZAW 111 (1999) 89-91. See also Bob Becking, "The Idea of Torah in Ezra 7- 
10: A Functional Analysis," ZABR 7 (2001) 273-86; Willi, Juda-Jehud-Israel, 90-91. 

49 See the quotation from Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums, given above at n. 5. 
See also Hans Heinrich Schaeder, Das persische Weltreich (Breslau: Korn, 1941). 

50 Especially problematic for the option of a "historical" imperial authorization of the 
Torah could be the fact that the Torah, at least in its main parts in Exodus 19 to Numbers 10, is 
presented as God's law: "Indem die Autoren des Pentateuch JHWH zur Rechtsquelle der fur 
'Israel' als Gottesgesetz verbindlichen Sinaitora einsetzen . . . widersprechen sie dem Anspruch 
des achamenidischen GroEkonigs, Dekrete im Namen des persischen GroEen Gottes als 
Schopfergottes in der Welt zu verkiinden." ("As the authors of the Pentateuch deployed YHWH 
as the legal source for the Tora from Sinai which is authoritative for 'Israel' as divine law . . . 
they opposed the claim of the Achaemenid Great King to promulgate decrees to the world in the 
name of the Persian Great God as the creator God") (Otto, "Rechtshermeneutik," 105-106). 

26 



stressed again: Ezra 7 assumes the imperial authorization of the Torah, whether this account is 
historically true or not. 51 

IV. CONCLUSIONS 
What conclusions can be drawn from this discussion? If the theory of Persian imperial 
authorization is evaluated apart from its reduction by its critics, then it should have become clear 
that mere rejection is too simple an option. The sources clearly are witness to varying processes 
of authorization of local norms by the Persian authorities. Such processes of authorization do 
not imply the creation and maintenance of a central archive for authorized norms, the personal 

Nevertheless, according to the priestly notion, it is clear that "God" in the Pentateuch is an 
inclusive concept; see Konrad Schmid, "Differenzierungen und Konzeptualisierungen der 
Einheit Gottes in der Religions- und Literaturgeschichte Israels: Methodische, 
religionsgeschichtliche und exegetische Aspekte zur neueren Diskussion um den sogenannten 
'Monotheismus' im antiken Israel," in Der eine Gott und die Gotter: Polytheismus und 
Monotheismus im antiken Israel (ed. Manfred Oeming and Konrad Schmid; ATANT 82; Zurich: 
Theologischer Verlag 2003), 11-38. Therefore, in this perspective, "Elohim" can be understood 
as an inclusive cipher for Ahuramazda, Zeus, or YHWH. Israel, according to its own tradition, 
follows "God's" own law which is, however, mediated by its Mosaic interpretation in 
Deuteronomy. 

51 Here, I cannot discuss the problem of possible different layers in Ezra 7, as, for 
example Pakkala suggests (see idem, Ezra the Scribe, 301-09). Pakkala's proposal might lead to 
different perceptions of the Torah in different stages of the literary development of Ezra 7. 
Pakkala holds the Artaxerxes rescript to be a (multi-layered) redactional expansion of Ezra 1-6 
(45-49; 297), but he does not preclude the possibility that it reworked authentic material. 

27 



involvement of the Persian king in each act of authorization, or the necessary initiation of such a 
process by the Persians. Still, this does not mean that little remains of the theory — we must 
continue to emphasize that no analogy exists in the ancient Near East for the fact that the central 
Persian government lent its authority to local norms. 

How the formation of the Torah should be connected with such processes of 
authorization currently remains an open question. It is unlikely that this formation had nothing 
to do with these processes. This basic assumption is made clear by the Artaxerxes decree in Ezra 
7, completely independent of whether the text is authentic or not, or whether it is Persian or 
Hellenistic. Ezra 7 shows us that the author of this text was familiar with processes of 
authorizing local norms and that he described Ezra's presentation of the Torah to his readers in 
this context. It is also important not to forget the difficulties that arise if the theory is cast aside 
altogether: Why did the closure of the Pentateuch occur, to a large degree, during the Persian 
era? Better theories must be brought forward to explain how the Pentateuch could have gained 
the status of the Torah. The statement that the Torah is a product of Jewish scribal scholarship 
will not suffice, for this is true of the entire Hebrew Bible. 



28